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Experts divided over benefits of lip balm in cold weather

By Wang Shutong  (Global Times)

08:34, October 18, 2012

Experts warn against over-use of lip balm.(File Photo)

Beijing's autumn has arrived in its usual abrupt fashion, and with it the air is already feeling very dry and cold. This spells trouble for our skin, not least the skin on our lips, which is perhaps the thinnest and most fragile on the whole body.

But what is bad for us is good for others, namely those who stock and sell lip balm. Right now this industry is booming and will continue to profit until next spring.
There are various types of lip balm on sale at stores and supermarkets, all claiming that they can provide protection to keep dehydration at bay.

However, sometimes using a lip balm can do more harm than good.

As the winter approaches, Lifestyle decided to relay some advice on choosing and using lip balm from skin care experts.

According to Shu Chang, a dermatologist from the dermatology department of Peking Union Medical College Hospital, people should think twice before deciding whether lip balm is needed. There are dozens of types of lip balms, some of them are fruit-flavored, some of them add color to lips, but as fun as they appear, using them might be less so. This is especially the case for allergy sufferers.

"If you have a medical record of allergies then you need to avoid using lip balms that have odor or colors in them," Shu explained.

Duan Xingwu from Dongzhimen Hospital Affiliated to Beijing University of Chinese Medicine agreed with Shu that people should choose transparent ones. He also mentioned that they should visit a dermatologist if their lips are swollen. "It is OK to use lip balm when your lips are chapped, but you need to stop using it immediately if your lips become inflamed," Duan noted.

Using lip balm and wearing a mask when it is windy can protect your lips, but this needs to be part of wider efforts to protect skin during the winter. Another crucial element, according to traditional Chinese medicine, is to focus on the body from inside by drinking plenty of water.

Duan also suggested that if people want to protect their skin, they need to stay "dirty" to some extent. "During the summer, we usually take a bath every day but in the autumn, it is suggested that one only takes a bath two or three times a week since by cleaning the body, one also cleans the grease that protects the skin," Duan said, continuing, "Using less body wash can also protect your skin from dehydration."

Men should definitely exercise caution when it comes to lip balm. While most lip balms are designed for and target women, over the past few years lip balms for men have hit the market, which is good news for all the "metrosexuals" who care about their appearance.

However, according to Shu, there is no need for men to wear lip balm, since hormones occurring naturally in them will produce the correct protection for their lips.

"Male hormones can help skin to generate grease, which can offer protection for lips. Compared to women, men's lips are relatively immune to dehydration," Shu said. "But when they are past 45 years old, these hormone levels start to drop and so they might need lip balm then," he noted.

Shu also said that the situation varies depending on different people. "If it is windy and they are working outside, then men should use lip balm to offer extra protection."

So lip balms are not all bad, they are just not for everyone in every occasion.

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